With over 400 breeds of dog available today, it may be a bit mind boggling to know that all domestic dogs come from the same family. DNA analysis has proven that Canis familiaris is where all dog breeds began, making them descendants of Canis lupus, which is the wolf. The wolf was interbred to make new breeds. Therefore, each group of breeds has slightly different dog histories. Ancient breeders chose the best male and female dogs to breed and produce puppies that had the best traits of both parents, much like the breeders of today.
The sporting dog breeds were created for running, hunting, and agility. These are dogs with longer legs, higher energy levels, quiet voices, and the ability to retrieve. Dogs in this group include spaniels and setters. Many of these breeds have their origins in Western Europe during the eras when hunting was both a gentleman’s sport as well as way to provide food.
Greyhounds, beagles, and bloodhounds are a part of the hound breeds. These dogs were bred specifically for hunting. They are rather vocal, which is a definite wolf characteristic. In recent days, the hound breeds have a history of doing work with law enforcement and acting as guard dogs.
Working dog breeds are made to be strong and powerful so they are able to handle tasks that require a lot of strength and endurance. This group includes boxers, Rottweilers, and Dobermans. The St. Bernard is a part of this group as well, being used as mountain rescue dogs and, in northern climates, used to pull sleds.
Another breed of dogs is the herding group. These dogs probably originated in areas that had open plains and other geographic traits that were suited to caring for large animal herds of sheep and cattle. Sheepdogs and collies are a part of this breed group, and are bred to be agile, fast, and smart enough to keep large numbers of animals under control.
Originally bred to burrow and drive out game or eliminate pests, the terrier breed has keen eyesight so they can see in the dark, low bodies to fit in small places and strong jaws to eliminate their prey. Examples of this breed are cairn terriers and wheaten terriers.
Toy breeds may be thought of as playmates now, but were bred particularly to be small, while retaining traits of their wolf cousins. This breed group includes Chihuahuas, Papillons, and Maltese dogs.
Mixed breeds fall into the non sporting group. These dogs don’t fit into other classifications of breeds, but they contain everything from dalmations to bulldogs. While they may not have the distinctive breeding traits of their purebred counterparts, they are still an example of their wolf ancestry.
Dog breeders today continue to combine known breeds to see what they can come up with in regard to different traits to make better pets. An example of this is the hypo-allergenic breeds. There are also mixed breed bloodlines being used to make new breeds like the cockapoo, which is a cross between the cocker spaniel and poodle, and the maltipoo, the combination of a maltese and poodle. This is considered to be dog breed history in the making.